Late Georgian Manchester was a buzzing hive of industry thanks to its canal and road links. People flocked to work in its textile factories. In about 1816, it took mail-coaches about thirty hours to travel from London to Manchester. But this was no provincial backwater; it had thriving religious and cultural institutions.
The Collegiate Church (later the Cathedral) was the town’s main place of worship. It was renowned for the mass baptisms and marriages which took place regularly there (because people had to pay extra fees if these ceremonies were carried out in other local churches). But other denominations had recently built their own places of worship. Roman Catholics had two chapels (Rook St, (1774) and Mulberry St (1794)). The Dissenters had had a chapel in Cross St since 1693 (nearly destroyed by a mob in the early 18th century), which had been extended in 1788.
The Methodists had a large chapel in Oldham St (mostly funded by William Brocklehurst), along with several other chapels in the area, including one at Gravel Lane in Salford. At this date Manchester only had a small Jewish population, who worshipped at the Synagogue in Long Millgate; they had a burial ground in Pendleton, near St Thomas’s Chapel.
The famous Literary and Philosophical Society (1781) met regularly at George St. Members had to be elected to the Society, which had a whopping 2-guinea entrance fee, and a guinea yearly membership fee. Its members included the famous scientist John Dalton. A News Room and Library (the Portico) opened in 1805; four years later, the New Exchange opened, where businessmen and merchants met to transact their business dealings.
The town had had a theatre since 1753 (possibly earlier), and stars from the London theatres regularly trod the boards here. The first Theatre Royal (in Spring Gardens) burned down in 1789; the new Theatre Royal opened in Fountain St in 1807, but like many other establishments, it was bedevilled by financial problems. By 1816 the Theatre Royal had ‘elegant saloons’ in the boxes (4s admission), or you could pay one shilling to sit in the gallery.
Regency gentlemen and belles graced the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms in Mosley Street, with its glittering chandeliers and mirrors. Dancers refreshed themselves in the elegant tea-room. Regular concerts were held at the Assembly Rooms.
Manchester was also home to many charities such as schools, Sunday schools, and hospitals. Did you know that Manchester had its own ‘spa’ at the end of the Infirmary Walks? Well-to-do locals could subscribe to the Public Baths supplied by a local spring; it cost half a guinea for a year’s subscription. Bathers could enjoy the Cold Bath, Hot or Vapour Bath, or the ‘Matlock or Buxton’ Bath.
But Manchester had its darker side. There was a recently built prison in Salford (the New Bailey), which opened in 1790 and replaced the former unsanitary House of Correction at Hunt’s Bank. Weaver Samuel Bamford, and the orator Henry Hunt, were imprisoned at the New Bailey following their arrest in 1819. They had been attending at mass meeting at St Peter’s Field to campaign for parliamentary reform. Several people were killed when local magistrates sent yeomanry cavalry into the crowd to arrest Henry Hunt – the infamous ‘Peterloo massacre’.
‘Manchester Heroes’. Contemporary print showing the Peterloo Massacre, courtesy Library of Congress.
We are delighted to welcome another new guest to All Things Georgian: William Ellis-Rees. William is a Classics teacher with a serious sideline interest in researching and writing on lesser known historical topics. Having published articles on various subjects in Country Life, Garden History and the gardening journal Hortus, he is now about to publish a book on Josephine Bonaparte, which, far from being a full-blown biography of the Empress, sheds light on a fascinating corner of her life and William is also working on another book, in which he returns to nineteenth-century London and its environs to tell the true story of a tragedy that shocked the nation.
Today, William is here to tells us a little more about his book, The Elephant of Exeter Change: A Tale of Cruelty and Confinement in Georgian London, which is available from Amazon as an e-book (follow the highlighted links to find out more). With that, we will hand you over to William to share some more information.
How odd to think that a restaurant and a coffee shop in London’s Strand, almost opposite the Savoy Grill, were once the ramshackle building known in the early nineteenth-century as Exeter Change.
At street level the Change—short for “Exchange”—comprised a jumble of shops and stalls selling walking sticks and umbrellas, suitcases and saddles, corkscrews and combs and any number of other useful items. Above these was a menagerie, and even now, long after I started work on this hidden corner of London history, the bizarre notion of caged animals floating above a crowded city street surprises and delights me.
The elephant on the first floor
The elephant at the heart of the story travelled to England from Kolkata (Calcutta at the time) on board an East India Company ship in 1811. The ship’s captain, Robert Hay, who had been horribly injured in an encounter with French warships off Mozambique, was an honourable man, and he kept a protective eye on the elephant even after he returned and sold it to a theatre. The London stage was the elephant’s first taste of fame, but its unwelcome celebrity was only truly established when in 1812 it passed into the hands of Stephen Polito, the owner of the menagerie at the Change.
The animals in the room above the Strand not only entertained and frightened the paying public: they also satisfied a curiosity about the world that lay beyond England’s shores.
Polito and Cross
Stephen Polito, and the man who took on the menagerie in 1814, Edward Cross, were a distinctly nineteenth-century phenomenon. Whereas they presented themselves as respectable businessmen, and scientists of a sort, others regarded them more accurately as dealers and showmen. Polito and Cross certainly knew about animals, but they were not exactly naturalists: they were motivated by profit, and their exhibits were kept in cramped conditions, and were often treated cruelly. Even so, the taste for the exotic they profited from cut across many social divides, and Cross in particular, in his capacity as an importer and supplier, enjoyed the patronage of a number of highly distinguished clients. So when he was snubbed by the London Zoological Society, who refused to buy his animals, he founded a rival establishment in what is now South East London with the help of powerful backers. There is a splendid portrait of Cross in his sixties, with a lion cub in his arms and a silk top-hat balanced on his head. He had transformed himself from Georgian impresario into early Victorian man of means—quite a success story.
Raffles and Brookes
On the subject of the London Zoological Society, an important figure in the story is Thomas Stamford Raffles.
Although principally known to history as the founder of colonial Singapore, Raffles was also the prime mover of the new zoo, the birth of which in 1826 was not unrelated to the elephant’s tragic end. And it is at this moment that the extraordinary Joshua Brookes makes his entry.
Brookes was a renowned London anatomist, although his image suffered from his dealings with the notorious resurrectionists. For details of his unique contribution to the story, I would like to refer you to my book, The Elephant of Exeter Change! Suffice it so say that Brookes found an unexpected solution to the problem of an elephant that had grown—as all young elephants do in time—to a colossal size.
In conclusion, researching the events of 1826 was a fascinating task: they were widely reported in newspapers and journals, and the commercial illustrators enjoyed a field day. But the elephant left other traces of itself—in playbills, in a jingle advertising boot polish, in a drawing-room song.
There is even a small but gruesome relic in a museum in East Anglia. The real discovery, though, was the cast of characters: the elephant itself, the one or two heroes and the several villains, and last, but by no means least, the ever-changing backdrop to a story that begins in the Indian Ocean and ends in some of the darker recesses of Georgian London.
Destruction of the furious elephant at Exeter Change. Courtesy of the British Museum
We are thrilled to be able to welcome Danielle Bond, Communications officer, for City of York Council to our blog and Dr Annie Gray, food historian and lecturer who has been recreating historic recipes for Georgian gem York Mansion House. We will now hand you over to Danielle to tell you more.
Dr Annie Gray leans over the brick chafing stove posing for photos with two woodcocks tightly gripped in her hands as little droplets of blood spatter on the ground. One thing that becomes quickly apparent when meeting Annie Gray is her passion for what she does and the constant question from people who surround her ‘are you squeamish?’ for reasons you can well understand.
She wasn’t able to get a chance to cook in the York Mansion House kitchen just yet as its completion has been slightly delayed, but the bones of this Georgian kitchen are there with a roasting spit, a chafing stove (used for warming and pictured above) and a wood burning oven. The Georgian kitchen is one of the most exciting restoration projects and will help to illustrate three centuries of cooking and eating in the house and interpret and explore the lives of those who have worked there. This is a fully restored 18th century kitchen using original artefacts and architectural features: any modern recreations are made in the traditional manner, including bricks handmade from local clay.
As we watch Annie finish preparing her historic recipes she pauses to peel open her beautifully covered, recently released book ‘The Greedy Queen’. The fantastic images of Queen Victoria’s dresses include her petite wedding dress and then a notably larger dress, clearly showing the aptness of the book’s title. Annie smiles delightedly, eyes sparkling and reads a passage about her favourite dish – the hundred guinea dish, a ghoulish-sounding monstrosity including, most notably, turtle heads arranged to look as though they are vomiting skewers of sweetbreads.
“Oh I think it sounds wonderful,” she says exuberantly to my grimacing face.
We step into a room prepared for filming and silence falls. I look across to see beef alamode sat ready to be cooked with bacon artfully needled throughout the rump as the smell of fresh garlic pierces the air. A whole nutmeg is smashed in an enviable brass pestle and mortar and a lovely copper bowl used for egg mixing is pulled in to the shot from the side.
“The copper egg mixing bowl was a vital part of the 18th century kitchen,” Annie exclaims. “if you want to replicate how the copper bowl stiffens the eggs you have to add a bit of lemon juice.”
Her love of food and history is not lost on anyone who meets her and it makes the whole experience just plain fun to watch.
I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask a few questions as well:
1. Danielle Bond: What drew you to the history of food?
Dr Annie Gray: I have always loved history, and I’ve been a keen cook (and eater) since I lived in France when I was 16. In 2003 I did an MA in historical archaeology at the University of York, as part of which we studied food and the rituals around it, and I realised that I could combine both of my passions. I knew I wanted to work with museums and heritage sites and within the field of public history, so I was looking for a field which had the potential for wide public engagement. Everyone eats, and everyone eventually admits to an opinion on food, so it’s a great way to bring people in and then use it to explore wider historical themes.
2. Danielle Bond: What do you find intriguing about the York Mansion House kitchen?
Dr Annie Gray: It’s been fascinating working with Mansion House from the very beginning of the Opening Doors project. Watching the layers of time being progressively peeled back from a kitchen which has been in use from the 18th century to the present day is a really special and quite unique opportunity.
3. Danielle Bond: Why have you chosen the recipes of Beef alamode and woodcocks specifically?
Dr Annie Gray: We’ve used a menu from 1789, so we know these dishes were cooked at the Mansion House, and woodcock bones were found in the course of archaeological work in the courtyard.
4. Danielle Bond: What is your favourite piece in the York Mansion House kitchen and why?
Dr Annie Gray: The spit, which is a 19th century addition. Spit roasting was so prestigious in the past, and yet now it’s almost completely lost. I know from working in country houses with spits that as an object it’ll be really interesting for visitors, but more than that, it was the sole object which remained in the kitchen to give a hint of its past when I first looked round them over five years ago.
5. How do you think a kitchen and food can give us a unique view on history?
Dr Annie Gray: Food is a universal: we all eat, and we do it a lot. It’s the one thing we all have in common, and yet we all do it so differently. Through food we can gain insights into class, and beliefs, and lives as lived, not merely as reported. There’s a growing realisation that history isn’t all about men with guns charging across the world, but is made up of little moments, and countless people whose names we may never even know. Food helps us get beyond the stuff so many of us were taught at school and into the grimy, violent and unbelievably exciting underbelly of the past.
Here’s to more cooking and history from Annie Gray, I’m looking forward to seeing her first cooking experience in the York Mansion House’s kitchen.
I am so excited for this Georgian gem in the heart of York to re-open after its extensive and careful restoration with Richard Pollitt, Mansion House curator at the helm. The Opening Doors Restoration project for York Mansion House was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, funding from City of York Council and a variety of grants and generous donations totalling £2.3 million. The project improves the visitor experience by beautifully restoring this unique piece of York’s architectural and civic history, allowing more people than ever to enjoy it.
York Mansion House will be open to visitors in the early Autumn, please like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on events and happenings.
We are delighted to hand you over to a returning visitor to our blog, the lovely Regan Walker who has been busy carrying out her usual, meticulous research for her latest romantic Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind (to find out more about her latest book, check out the end of this post).
In November of 1782, Joseph Montgolfier, a French manufacturer of paper began to wonder if rising smoke might be used to carry a balloon aloft. With his brother Etienne, he experimented, and by June 1783, the brothers Montgolfier built a balloon made of silk and lined with paper that was 33 feet in diameter. They launched it, unmanned, from the marketplace in Annonay, France. The balloon rose 5,200-6,600 feet and stayed aloft for ten minutes. History was made.
Word of their success quickly spread. The French king, Louis XVI, who was known to dabble in science and a great friend of Benjamin Franklin, desired a demonstration.
For this flight, the Montgolfier brothers constructed a balloon about 30 feet in diameter made of taffeta and coated with a varnish of alum for fireproofing. The balloon was decorated with golden flourishes, zodiac signs, and suns symbolizing King Louis XVI.
On September 19, 1783, the brothers made an unmanned flight before a crowd of 130,000 at Versailles, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. This flight was also unmanned. The next step, of course, would be a manned flight.
The first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, was performed in October 1783 by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, a French chemistry and physics teacher, and the Marquis François d’Arlandes, a French military officer. Mindful of the dangers, Louis XVI wanted to use prisoners, but de Rozier persuaded the king to let him and the marquis have that honor. The flight was successful.
About a month later, in November 1783, de Rozier and the d’Arlandes made the first free ascent in a balloon, flying from the center of Paris to the suburbs, a trouble-free journey of two hours.
Benjamin Franklin, the diplomatic representative of America, then in France, witnessed the balloon taking off and wrote in his journal:
We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner. When it reached around 250 feet in altitude, the intrepid voyagers lowered their hats to salute the spectators. We could not help feeling a certain mixture of awe and admiration.
The Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (which they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air and caused the inflated balloons to rise. In fact, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated. The balloon rose because the air within was lighter and less dense than the surrounding atmosphere, which pushed against the bottom of the balloon.
The limitations of using air were soon realized. As the air cooled, the balloon was forced to descend. Keeping a fire burning meant the risk of sparks setting the bag on fire. Other methods were explored, including hydrogen.
On December 1, 1783, Jacques Alexandre César Charles launched a balloon containing hydrogen from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris before vast crowds.
Jacques Charles and his co-pilot, Nicolas-Louis Robert, ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet and landed at sunset after a flight of just over 2 hours. It is believed 400,000 spectators witnessed the launch. Hundreds paid one crown each to help finance the construction and receive access to a “special enclosure” for a close-up view of the lift off. Among the “special enclosure” crowd was Benjamin Franklin, who had become quite a fan of the aerostatic globes, as he called them. In my new Georgian novel, Echo in the Wind, this new love of Franklin’s is remembered and his thoughts at the time recalled.
The first person in Britain to ascend in a balloon was a Scot, James Tytler, an apothecary and the editor of the second edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.
Notwithstanding Tytler’s achievement, “Balloonomania” swept Britain due largely to the exploits of an Italian, Vincenzo (“Vincent”) Lunardi, who, quite the showman, styled himself as “the Daredevil Aeronaut”.
Following in the footsteps of the Montgolfier brothers in France, Lunardi arrived in London from Italy in the early 1780s determined to demonstrate the wonders of balloon-powered flight.
On the morning of September 15, 1784, nearly 200,000 people watched as Lunardi launched a hydrogen balloon into the air from the Artillery Ground on the northern outskirts of London. The envelope of the balloon was made of oiled silk, and had a diameter of 33 feet.
For the flight, Lunardi was accompanied by three companions: a dog, a cat and a pigeon. A special stand had been erected for George, the Prince of Wales, who tipped his silk hat in deference as the balloon began to rise. The balloon drifted north for 24 miles before landing safely in Hertfordshire.
Lunardi’s balloon was later exhibited at the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Lunardi made five sensational flights in Scotland in 1785, creating a ballooning fad and inspiring ladies’ fashions in skirts and hats. (The “Lunardi bonnet” is mentioned in the poem To a Louse by Robert Burns.)
The age of the hot air balloon had arrived and mankind was forever committed to the sky.
England and France 1784
Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.
As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.
Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.
Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?
We are thrilled to welcome author Claire Cock-Starkey to our blog today to share with us some fascinating information about eighteenth-century gardens, as her latest book, The Golden Age of the Garden is released today by publishers Elliott & Thompson.
During the Georgian period a new style of garden superseded the Renaissance formal garden. Gone were the parterres, the neatly trimmed box hedges and the geometric gravel pathways, and in their stead came the naturalistic styles of the landscape design movement – inspired by the English pastoral ideal.
The landscape design movement held nature as its guide – using serpentine paths to meander past organic bodies of water, to picturesque ruined follies and through artfully placed groves of trees. These gardens were designed to provide fresh vistas at every turn, with variety and contrast used to ensure the visitor was constantly delighted by the changing landscape.
The most famous gardeners of the era included William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton, all of whom contributed a great deal to what today we still consider some of the finest gardens in the land. Let us take a little tour through some of the iconic gardens of the Georgian era, with some contemporary descriptions:
Stowe gardens in Oxfordshire were one of the most famed gardens of the Georgian era. From 1713 Viscount Cobham employed architect John Vanbrugh and gardener Charles Bridgeman to begin modelling the grounds, later also engaging William Kent and Capability Brown to continue improvements.
‘Here is such a scene of Magnificence and Nature display’d at one View. To the Right you have a View of the Gothic Temple, Lord COBHAM’s Pillar, and the Bridge; in the Center is a grand View of the House, and on the Left the Piramid; the Trees and Water so delightfully intermingled, and such charming Verdure, symmetry, and Proportion every where presenting to the Eye, that the Judgment is agreeably puzzled, which singularly to prefer, of so many Beauties.’ – The Beauties of Stow by George Bickham (1753)
Also designed by prominent architect Sir John Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1733. The large grounds were extensively remodelled by Capability Brown between 1764 and 1774.
‘All this scenery before the castle, is now new-modelled by the late ingenious Mr. Brown, who has given a specimen of his art, in a nobler style, then he has commonly displayed. His works are generally pleasing; but here they are great. About a mile below the house, he has thrown across the valley, a massy head; which forms the rivulet into a noble lake, divided by the bridge, (which now appears properly with all the grandeur of accompaniments) into two very extensive pieces of water. Brown himself used to say, “that the Thames would never forgive him, what he had done at Blenheim.” And every spectator must allow, that. On entering the great gate from Woodstock, the whole of this scenery, (the castle, the lawn, the woods, and the lake) seen together, makes one of the grandest bursts, which art perhaps ever displayed.’ – Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland by William Gilpin (1786).
The gardens of Painshill near Cobham in Surrey were designed by their owner the Honourable Charles Hamilton and laid out 1738–73.
‘But Painshill is all a new creation; and a boldness of design, and a happiness of execution, attend the wonderful efforts which art has there made to rival nature. An easy winding descent leads from the Gothic building to the lake, and a broad walk is afterwards continued along the banks, and across an island, close to the water on one hand, and skirted by wood on the other: the spot is perfectly retired; but the retirement is cheerful; the lake is calm; but it is full to the brim, and never darkened with shadow; the walk is smooth, and almost level, and touches the very margin of the water; the wood which secludes all view into the country, is composed of the most elegant trees, full of the lightest greens, and bordered with shrubs and with flowers; and though the place is almost surrounded with plantations, yet within itself is open and airy; it is embellished with three bridges, a ruined arch, and a grotto; and the Gothic building, still very near, and impending directly over the lake, belongs to the place; but these objects are never visible all together; they appear in succession as the walk proceeds; and their number does not croud the scene which is enriched by their frequency.’ – Observations on Modern Gardening by Thomas Whately (1770).
The poet William Shenstone created the gardens at the Leasowes between 1743 and 1763. Shenstone intended to create a ferme ornée – an ornamented farm which combines practicality and beauty and his achievements at the Leasowes were much admired by contemporary visitors.
‘The moment I entered this quiet and sequestered valley, the superlative genius of Shenstone stood confessed on every object, and struck me with silent admiration. – I turned to a bench under the wall, and sat so absorbed, with the charms of a cascade, so powerfully conducted in the very image of nature herself, plunging down a bed of shelving rock, and huge massy stones, that, for a long while, my attention was lost to every thing else – I strove to find out where the hand of the designer had been, but could not: – surely nothing was ever held to the eye so incomparably well executed! And if we add to its analogous accompaniments, of bold scarry grounds, rough entangled thicket, clustering trees, and sudden declivities: I cannot but be persuaded, it is altogether one of the most distinguished scenes that ever was formed by art.’ – Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil, and the Leasowes by Joseph Heely (1777).
In 1760 Capability Brown took out the old formal gardens and converted much of the farmland into parkland at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, substantially altering the grounds. Brown utilised many of his signature designs, such as rolling parkland, belts of trees to enclose the view and an expanse of water to reflect the vistas.
‘This extensive part presents a great variety of aspect, from the most graceful undulating hill and swelling eminence, interspersed with plantations, beautiful lawns and pleasure grounds to the bold rugged cliff and lofty mountain, well watered and richly wooded, including an area of about 11 miles in circumference, stocked with about two thousand head of deer, sheep and cattle in vast numbers, and kept in the finest possible order.
. . .
On a fine sunny day it is truly sublime, and it need scarcely be observed that we stood for a while to contemplate a scene so enchanting – a scene which a century ago could not have been dreamed of as likely to exist amongst healthy mountains and the wilds of the Peak. But it exhibits a splendid specimen of the enrichment of art, and the capability of a world, however sterile and forbidding in its natural aspect, of being converted, by persevering industry and judicious management, into a very Paradise.’ – Description of Buxton, Chatsworth and Castleton by William Adam (1847).
View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake, British School, Government Art Collection
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Stew Ross. Stew is a retired commercial banker who embarked on writing books more than five years ago. He enjoys writing about important and interesting historical events of Paris and its time periods. He takes his readers around Paris on defined walks to visit the buildings, places, and sites that were important to the theme of the book. Stew is currently working on two books covering the Nazi occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944 (Where Did They Put the GestapoHeadquarters?). These books will follow his first four books—two volumes each—Where Did They Put the Guillotine? A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris and Where Did TheyBurn the Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar? A Walking Tour of MedievalParis (click here to find out more). Stew hopes you will visit his blog at www.stewross.com as well as follow him on Twitter and Facebook. So, now over to Stew…
I’m honored to have been asked by Sarah and Joanne to write a piece for their blog site. Although I first learned of Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1754–1823) through an article in the BBC History Magazine, it was Sarah and Joanne’s book, An Infamous Mistress which provided me an expanded view into Grace’s life and in particular, her activities during the French Revolution.
GRACE AND JULIETTE
I would like to introduce you to Juliette Récamier (1777–1849). Although twenty-three years younger than Grace, Madame Récamier had many things in common with Mrs. Elliott—although I’m not quite sure the term “courtesan” would apply to Juliette as it did for Grace. Similar to Grace, Juliette married an older man (by 30-years) and suffered a loveless and unconsummated marriage (he was rumored to have been her biological father). Each of them moved about effortlessly in the upper echelons of society but died virtually penniless. Both of these women were so gorgeous that famous artists clamored to paint their portraits.
Juliette Bernard was born into the family of Jean Bernard, King Louis XVI’s counselor and receiver of finance. Her mother ran one of the most sought after salons in Paris and it was there, at the age of fifteen, that she was introduced to and ultimately married the 42-year-old banker Jacques-Rose Récamier. By the time Juliette had turned eighteen, Marie Antoinette had heard of her beauty and sent for her. Unlike Grace, Mme Récamier hid her loveless marriage and divorce was not an option. Reportedly, she remained a virgin until the age of forty-two.
It is a wonder that Juliette’s husband escaped the blade of Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution. It seems his friendship with the revolutionary Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753–1824) allowed M. Récamier to keep his head.
When Juliette was twenty-one, M. Récamier purchased the former residence of the king’s finance minister, Jacques Necker. Located on Rue du Mont-Blanc—today 7 rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin—the mansion would serve as the site for Juliette’s luxurious balls, receptions, and most important, her salon.
Besides her exquisite beauty, Juliette was well known for her Paris salon and as one of the city’s leaders of fashion. Her salon was extremely fashionable with discussions centered on politics and literary interests. Her circle of friends included Lucien Bonaparte (Napoléon’s brother), Mme Germaine de Staël, François-René de Chateaubriand, various foreign princes, and many famous contemporaries during the time of the Empire and first Restoration.
Juliette turned down an invitation to be lady-in-waiting for Napoléon’s wife, Joséphine. Coupled with her strong friendship with Mme Staël, Napoléon ordered Juliette to be exiled along with Mme Staël, a fervent monarchist and outspoken opponent of Napoléon and the Empire—Juliette moved to Italy whereas Germaine took up residence in Switzerland.
Juliette returned to Paris after Napoléon was sent into his exile (turn about is fair play?). She continued to receive visitors at her apartment located at 16 rue de Sèvres (the building was demolished in the early 20th-century).
Juliette Récamier died of cholera and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre. We will visit Juliette’s grave in my seventh book Where Did They Bury Jim Morrison the Lizard King? A Walking Tour of Curious Paris Cemeteries.
THE RÉCAMIER SOFA
One of the legacies Juliette left us with is the Récamier sofa. She is lounging on the sofa in Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of her. The original Récamier sofa can be seen at the Louvre. As you view the painting at the top of the post, notice Juliette is not wearing any slippers or shoes. When David introduced the painting to the general public there was a huge scandal over her being presented barefoot.
Recently, I wrote an account of the life and times of Dr Thomas Gibson (1648/9–1722) for Early Modern Medicine. Gibson is best known for his book The Anatomy of Humane Bodies Epitomised (at least six editions from 1682), but he was briefly physician-general to the British Army while in his 70s. He is also known in the context of his second wife, Anne Cromwell, who was a granddaughter of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.
While researching the piece, I read about how Gibson’s first wife, Elizabeth (1646–1692) was a widow from Stanstead St Margaret’s, Hertfordshire. Most accounts of Thomas Gibson describe Elizabeth as the widow of Zephaniah Cresset, which indeed she was, but what is left out is that Elizabeth was also widowed a second time, before marrying Gibson in 1684.
The information about Elizabeth’s life comes from her third husband who published an autobiography along with her funeral sermon, A Sermon Preach’d on the Occasion of the Funeral of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson, together with a Short Account of her Life (London, 1692), shortly after her death at the age of 46.
Gibson opens by describing how his wife had lately lived a quiet, retired life, and that she was a deeply pious woman who spent her days in charitable endeavours and prayer, and who unfortunately did not enjoy good health. He hoped her life story might provide an instructional text and others should follow her example. He claimed he was best placed to represent her life and views because of his ‘long Conversation’ with his late wife but also how he had observed her Christian walking. Their marriage was in fact only around eight years long, but it was a full six years before Gibson made a new marriage to Anne. Throughout the short autobiography, Gibson quotes extensively from Elizabeth’s spiritual meditations, explaining to the reader that her words will always be surrounded by ‘Double comma’s’ (sic) or speech marks.
Elizabeth was the third daughter of a lawyer, George Smith who practiced at Grey’s Inn, London, and who was appointed judge to Scotland in 1658. He died shortly after the family relocated to Edinburgh and Elizabeth described how vulnerable she, her mother, Hannah, and younger sister felt at being alone in a strange place 300 miles from their nearest relatives. Her father’s death then was the first of the ‘great afflictions’ which Elizabeth lived through. Soon afterwards and from the age of fourteen, Elizabeth contracted a ‘Quatane-ague’ which she had for two years. It was Gibson’s opinion that this illness was the root of all the subsequent ill-health Elizabeth endured.
It was when she was 17, and somewhat recovered, that she was married to Zephaniah Cresset. Cresset was the son of Edward Cresset Master of the alms house and school Charter-House in London from 1650-1660, but was like Elizabeth, from Stanstead St Margaret’s in Hertfordshire – indeed the Smith and Cresset family graves are alongside one another in the same church(1).
Zephaniah was educated at Magdalene College, Oxford and who was planning on working as a doctor of physic in the future. The Cresset marriage only lasted a few months. The couple were living in Elizabeth’s mother’s home at St Margaret’s, and while travelling back there from London Zephaniah fell from his horse, which caused him to contract a fever and he died within a few days of the fall.
While still a teenager, Elizabeth found herself both widowed and expecting her first child. Her son, named after his father, was born seven months after her husband’s death. Worse was to come when the child, a healthy and thriving toddler died suddenly aged just 18 months in October 1665. Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary, died at this time too, both were victims of the Great Plague which swept the country that year, and which claimed five members of Elizabeth’s family, including her father-in-law (who died in December 1665).
Her family began putting pressure on Elizabeth to remarry almost immediately, but it was around three years later that she felt moved by God to marry a physician called Thomas Dawson. Dawson graduated with a medical degree from Jesus College, Cambridge in summer 1669, and was admitted to the College of Physicians a decade later. Elizabeth and Thomas were married for almost fourteen years, and it was a source of great sadness to her that they had no children together.
Throughout the marriage it seems that she suffered from bouts of ill-health including gallstones, colic, bowel problems and jaundice. Like during her first marriage, the couple lived with Elizabeth’s mother in St Margaret’s, but following her mother’s death in 1677 and the couple relocated to London.
In 1682, Elizabeth went back to her country home to recuperate from the measles. She had not been there long when she got the sad news that Dr Dawson had died suddenly in their London house. He was buried in St Alphage, Cripplegate (2).
Gibson describes how this latest bereavement caused her to suffer from ‘hysterical Colick’ for a ‘year or two’ afterwards. It was two and half years after losing her second husband that Elizabeth married Gibson. She was never wholly well during their entire seven year marriage, suffering from loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, painful limbs, and even convulsions.
It seems as though she still had some hopes of a family when she wrote a will on 20 December 1687. In it she bequeathed lands she owned in Hertfordshire to her husband, followed by any children she might yet bear him. She also placed on record her desire to be buried back at St Margaret’s next to her mother and son (3).
While the autobiography describes Elizabeth’s exemplary Christian suffering and ‘good death’, it does not appear that her stated wish to be buried back in St Margaret’s was accommodated and her place of rest is not noted.
If this post has piqued your interest in health matters at this time, Sara’s next book Maladies and Medicines: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740, co-authored with Dr Jennifer Evans, is coming out with Pen and Sword in July 2017! Keep an eye on Sara’s Twitter feed for more information (@saralread) and also Jennifer’s Twitter feed (@historianjen).
Dr Evans will also be appearing on the ‘Inside Versailles‘ programme with Greg Jenner and Kate Williams on BBC2, 26 May, so keep an eye out for it.
1 Sir Henry Chauncy, The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1826), p. 569.
Today we are delighted to welcome back the author, Geri Walton. Geri has long been interested in history and fascinated by the stories of people from the 1700 and 1800s. This led her to get a degree in History and resulted in her website, which offers unique history stories from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.
Her first book, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante: The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe, looks at the relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe and has just been released in the U.S and Canada.
Before we hand over to Geri we thought readers might like to know a little about her book:
Marie Antoinette has always fascinated readers worldwide. Yet perhaps no one knew her better than one of her closest confidantes, Marie Thérèse, the Princesse de Lamballe. The Princesse became superintendent of the Queen’s household in 1774, and through her relationship with Marie Antoinette, a unique perspective of the lavishness and daily intrigue at Versailles is exposed.
Born into the famous House of Savoy in Turin, Italy, Marie Thérèse was married at the age of seventeen to the Prince de Lamballe; heir to one of the richest fortunes in France. He transported her to the gold-leafed and glittering chandeliered halls of the Château of Versailles, where she soon found herself immersed in the political and sexual scandals that surrounded the royal court. As the plotters and planners of Versailles sought, at all costs, to gain the favor of Louis XVI and his Queen, the Princesse de Lamballe was there to witness it all.
This book reveals the Princesse de Lamballe’s version of these events and is based on a wide variety of historical sources, helping to capture the waning days and grisly demise of the French monarchy. The story immerses you in a world of titillating sexual rumors, blood-thirsty revolutionaries, and hair-raising escape attempts and is a must read for anyone interested in Marie Antoinette, the origins of the French Revolution, or life in the late 18th Century.
Marquis de Lafayette, the same man who played a pivotal role in the French Revolution, had earlier become a hero in the American Revolution. He became a hero after being shot in the calf of his left leg during a battle. Although Lafayette’s wound was not that serious, it kept him out of action for a time. But more importantly, it generated buzz about his heroics back in Paris.
One person who heard about Lafayette’s wound in battle was the wife of Count Philippe-Antoine of Hunolstein. Her full name was Charlotte-Gabrielle-Elisabeth-Aglaé de Puget of Barbantane. Aglaé, as she was called, was a charmer who possessed the duo attributes of being extraordinarily bright and exquisitely beautiful. In fact, even women who did not like her admitted that she was beautiful, and men were all the more vociferous in their praises of her.
Aglaé was born around 1755 to parents that had good connections with the Orléans family. In fact, Aglaé’s mother was governess to the Duchess of Bourbon, and she was the sister of the Duke of Chartres who was later known as the Duke of Orléans and still later as Philippe Égalité. He was also cousin to King Louis XVI.
Despite Agalé’s supposed close connection with the Orléans family, it seems the Duchess of Bourbon decided Aglaé possessed such “depraved inclinations” that she became “determined not have her in her retinue.” So, instead, Aglaé found herself serving the Duchess of Chartres, who was wife to the Duke of Chartres and also sister-in-law to the ill-fated Princesse de Lamballe.
This position was convenient as Agalé’s husband was one of the Duke of Chartres’s gentlemen. Thus, the Hunolstein’s life consisted of many similar amusements attended by the Duke and Duchess of Chartres. Moreover, the Hunolstein’s found themselves attending balls, operas, and the theatre with some of the most important members of French society.
The Duke of Chartres also provided frequent gaieties at his palatial Palais Royal, of which the Hunolstein’s regularly attended. The Duke of Chartres liked to live life with gusto. He was well-known for his womanizing and orgiastic festivals of lovemaking. Furthermore, he was known for his outlandish pranks:
[Once] after dinner the duke harnessed eight horses to his coach, seated himself astride … put the Princesse de Lamballe in the coach-box, his wife in the carriage and Aglaé behind her in the lackey’s place, and then rode lickety-split through the fashionable Faubourg St.-Honoré and Chaillot back to Mousseaux.
Passers-by could only imagine what the Duke of Chartres had in store as he flew past in a carriage full of women. The fact that Agalé participated in the prank shows a high degree of intimacy with the Duke. Moreover, indications are that she may have preceded the Duke’s next lover, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, better known as Madame de Genlis, who made no secret that she disliked Aglaé immensely.
Despite Aglaé’s intimate relationship with the Duke, Lafayette practically came to blows with someone else over her. Louis-Philippe, Count of Ségur, who descended from a noble and ancient military family, was friends with Lafayette. According to Ségur, after Lafayette became secretly attached to Aglaé, he somehow erroneously conceived the idea that Ségur was his rival.
Ségur reported that the red-headed Lafayette was mad with jealousy over Aglaé and could think of no one else. Once, under this spell of passion, Lafayette spent an entire night trying to induce Ségur to fight a duel for her. Agalé apparently knew nothing at the time of Lafayette’s attempt to fight a duel or of his jealous passion for her.
While Lafayette was fighting in America and continuing to make a name for himself, he was frequently sidetracked thinking about Aglaé. He even went so far as to write her a letter that was bundled with other letters, including some to Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne. Then in April, Lafayette received a packet of letters back.
Among the letters was one that did not make Lafayette happy. There was “a disturbing report about malicious gossip in Paris coupling his name with that of Aglaé.” Apparently, according to Lafayette, a mean trick had been played that consisted of a song about his relationship with Aglaé. Lafayette further clarified the incident in a letter to his brother-in-law:
The outcome of that pleasantry will probably be to make her forever unhappy and to make me come to swords’ points with a man against whom I can in all conscience defend myself only halfway. But the society of Paris will console itself with a song … It hurts to have them come two thousand leagues looking for me to be the hero of the current scandal and for a woman who is two thousand leagues from the flirtations and intrigues of Paris to make her the victim of some wicked fiction. Let me know, my dear brother, whether they speak to you about it as a joke or if they really make a serious bit of malice out of it.
Of all the glories heaped upon Lafayette, perhaps the most thrilling was the attention that Aglaé paid to him when he returned from America as a hero. Juicy rumours sprang up immediately accusing Lafayette and Aglaé of being more than mere friends. Before long, their relationship proved too conspicuous, too passionate, and too scandalous.
Their relationship also drew criticism from Algaé’s family, particularly her mother, the Marquise de Barbanily. Despite Aglaé’s husband being seemingly fine with Algaé’s relationship with Lafayette, the Marquise was livid about it. The Marquise thought Lafayette was too well-known and her daughter too obvious. Moreover, the Marquise hated the gossip and begged Aglaé to return to her husband. Lafayette made a half-hearted attempt to meet and smooth things over with Aglaé’s mother, but the meeting never came to fruition.
From the start, Lafayette and Aglaé’s love affair proved unhappy. Although Lafayette’s wife remained faithful and loyal behind the scenes, Adrienne’s family was extremely unhappy with the situation. Their unhappiness in turn made Lafayette unpopular at Louis XVI’s court, and Aglaé was shunned. Moreover, Algaé’s old lover, the Duke of Chartres, annoyed Lafayette and Aglaé at every turn.
Lafayette and Aglaé’s relationship was supposedly full of passion. Yet, with passion also came many brutal lover quarrels. Allegedly, during nearly every fight, she told Lafayette she wanted to end their relationship. Lafayette always refused to accept it.
Lafayette reputedly begged Aglaé to give him an explanation as to why their relationship should end, and then whatever she said, he refused to accept. He moped about and then became angry or persistent until he somehow convinced her to continue their relationship. Eventually, however, Aglaé begged him to leave Paris and to think about the painfulness of her situation as the constant gossip proved distressing to her.
Lafayette finally relented. In March of 1783 he travelled the dusty roads to his birthplace in Chavaniac. Lafayette had not been back there for ten years. The time and distance allowed him to think clearly, and he came to a momentous decision. His letter began, “You are too cruel, my dear Aglaé. You realize my heart’s torments,” and it ended with him reluctantly releasing her for good.
You put in my hands your peace of mind, your safety, and much more … You understand the extent of my sacrifice. … I will silence my heart. [However,] all that you are, all that I owe to you, justifies my love, and nothing, not even you would keep me from adoring you.
Although Aglaé may have thought all the gossip would stop when her relationship with Lafayette ended, it did not. In fact, one critic penned that Aglaé was “a woman who was outwardly a prude though inwardly corrupt.” There were also new claims that she was leading a dissolute life, had delivered Chartres’s child, and was currently pregnant by a lackey. Her own family became resentful towards her, perhaps even disowned her, and, thus, she gave up public life and entered a convent.
Louis Gottschalk, Lady-in-Waiting: The Romance of Lafayette and Aglaé de Hunolstein, Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1939.
Gottschalk, Louis. Lafayette in America. Arveyres, France: L’Esprit de Lafayette Society, 1975.
Ségur, Louis P. d. Memoirs and recollections of Count Segur … Written by himself … Translated from the French. Boston: E. Bliss and E. White, 1825.
Marquis de Lafayette as a General in 1791. Courtesy of Wikipedia
We are thrilled to welcome Dr Jacqueline Reiter who has written a guest blog for us about her first book The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, which was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.
Jacqueline has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at The Late Lord and you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
So we will hand you over to Jacqueline to tell you more about The Late Lord.
I freely admit that, when I started writing my biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, I hoped to overturn some of the myths surrounding him. Chatham was the elder brother of William Pitt the Younger and infamous for his lazy command of the Walcheren Expedition of 1809, which was a notorious failure.
In reality, Chatham was a fascinating, complex person, certainly not the indolent fool he has been made out to be, but it seems there is no smoke without fire. I often came across what I called “oh dear John” moments (and yes, I do feel my reading all Chatham’s available personal correspondence entitles me to be on first-name terms with him).
There was the occasion when “the late Lord Chatham”, as he was known, turned up four and a half hours late to a royal function; the newspapers po-facedly traced his lacklustre attendance at Board meetings while First Lord of the Admiralty. Even in private life he was a bit of a flake, and spent five weeks screwing up the courage to propose to his future wife, while everybody about him (including the object of his affections) got increasingly tetchy.
Possibly the least expected laugh-out-loud moment of all occurred while I was plodding resolutely through the 12th Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry (1810), focusing on the Office of the Master-General of the Ordnance.
Chatham was Master-General of the Ordnance from 1801-6 and 1807-10. His department was responsible for the production and provision of gunpowder and firearms, as well as the building and maintenance of permanent fortifications. It trained artillerists and engineers at Woolwich, thereby providing advanced scientific and mathematical education (for all classes, not just the privileged). It sponsored scientific innovation, and not merely by developing new ways of killing more people in the most explosive possible way; the Ordnance Survey Maps are so named because they were first produced by the Ordnance Office.
The Ordnance was a big, cumbersome, bureaucracy-heavy department, but its structure had evolved because it had to be clearly accountable as a public office handling an awful lot of money. Between 1803 and 1815, the Ordnance Ordinaries, Extraordinaries and Unprovided funds (voted on a yearly basis by Parliament based on pretty detailed financial breakdowns) rose from £1.27 million to between £4 and £4.6 million (with a spike of £5.3 million in 1809, when Britain fielded two enormous armies in two different fields of battle).
These were hefty sums: in 1813, Britain’s total annual budget was £66 million. Part of the remit of the Military Commissioners, indeed, was to work out why Ordnance expenditure had grown so much and so rapidly during the war, and to suggest ways of reducing it.
Chatham did not appear before the Commission in person, although he did answer several questions about the office of Master-General by post. One of his staff, however, Colonel Charles Neville, did appear (on 2 April 1810). Neville did quite well during his cross-examination, but at one point he stumbled and inadvertently revealed something Chatham would probably rather had remained confidential.
Neville was only an under-secretary: the actual Secretary, Sir William Bellingham, had done virtually nothing to justify his salary since his appointment and had in fact been in Ireland for a lot of the time (because of this, his office was very much up for the chop). Neville was asked several questions about the structure of the Master-General’s personal department. It was quite small, Neville said: there were only three official messengers, two of them attached to the Ordnance Office and one personal messenger to the Master-General, who attended him when he was travelling.
This, Neville explained, was something Chatham did a lot. He was a busy man. The Master-Generalship was only one of his many official hats, the next most important of which was his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Military District. Britain was divided up into several districts, each commanded by a high-ranking general officer who controlled the military resources and the regular, militia and volunteer forces in the geographic area under their command. Chatham’s Eastern District headquarters were in Colchester, and his correspondence bears out Neville’s evidence that he spent a significant portion of each year there.
Did Lord Chatham charge travel expenses? Yes, Neville said, he did. (But of course: he was entitled to do so.) Were these checked by anybody? Neville replied: “The Bills are brought to me by his Lordship’s personal Messenger; and I strike out all Journies [sic] that do not appear directed to an Ordnance Station.”
The follow-up question was obvious: “Did Lord Chatham, whilst Master General, charge his Travelling Expenses to the Ordnance, when going to, or returning from the District in which he had a Staff Command?”
Maybe he was nervous about appearing before a parliamentary commission, but Neville blithely stepped straight into the trap laid out for him: “Yes, as he went to Colchester, which is an Artillery Station.”
“Are you aware,” the anonymous commissioner continued, “that General Officers on the Staff are not allowed, by His Majesty’s Regulations, any Travelling Expences for Journies within their Districts?”
At which point an ominous silence probably fell across the room, and Neville must have thought: “….. Oh no.”
He responded with a bland “I am not aware of any such Regulation.”
Thankfully Chatham was at this point already out of office, or Ordnance-Expensegate might well have followed…
(And if you’re wondering, Chatham charged £421.14.8 in travel expenses in 1807 – a sizeable sum!).
All of which just goes to show that expenses were as much an issue in 1810 as they were in 2010. Some things, it seems, never change.
All quotations come from Commissioners of Military Enquiry, Thirteenth Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry: The Master General and Board of Ordnance (London, 1811).
For our first guest post of 2017 we are thrilled to welcome back the collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians, Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel also known as AJ Mackenzie to tell us about part of their research for their latest book, The Body in the Icewhich will be available from April this year.
While planning our new novel, The Body in the Ice, we discovered we needed an additional plot device. Two of our American characters needed to disappear as children and be presumed dead, only – in finest Gothic style – to reappear as adults many years later. The question was, what happened to them in the meantime? Where did they go and what did they do?
One reason why white – and black – children sometimes disappeared in colonial America was abduction by Native Americans. This sounds brutal, and it was, but there was more than simple child-snatching behind these abductions. During much of the eighteenth century, the tribes of the eastern forests of North America were in a state of war with their white neighbours, who were constantly encroaching on native lands. The fighting was often extremely vicious, and there were frequent massacres. As always in conflicts, women and children were often victims on both sides.
The white soldiers and settlers were more numerous and better armed and the thinly populated Native American tribes took losses they could ill afford. One way of making good those losses was to take white captives – children usually, but often women and sometimes men – and adopt them into the tribe. (And it must be pointed out that white settlers also kidnapped Native American children, for a different purpose: these children were to be taken away and educated, converted to Christianity and generally ‘civilised’. This practice continued in the as state, provincial and national policy in the US and Canada until well after World War Two.) Not all interactions were violent: : Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, by Benjamin West
Contemporary white accounts painted lurid pictures of captives being brutally tortured and killed. Those stories were not entirely apocryphal. Massy Harbison, abducted with her family in 1784, saw two of her young children killed before her eyes, ostensibly to stop them from crying and alerting the rescue parties that were tracking her kidnappers. Mary Jemison, captured during a raid in 1755, woke up one morning to find that her parents and several siblings, taken with her, had all been killed; her captors told her this was to prevent them from escaping.
But for other white captives, the experience was quite different. Jonathan Alder, taken at the age of nine, was treated well by his captors. After a short time he was adopted by a childless couple from the Mingo people in modern-day Ohio, who treated him as their own son. He lived a carefree life as a boy, roaming the forests hunting for game, and was entirely happy in his new situation.
Then, one day in his late teens, there came an unpleasant shock. Rather like Samuel and Emma in The Body in the Ice, Alder was told that he was now an adult, and could choose his own destiny.
One morning my Indian father called me and told me that I was now near the age that young men should be free and doing for themselves. I now had the right to come and go and stay where I pleased and was not under any restraint whatsoever, particularly from himself and my mother.1
In other words, Alder was now free to return to his original, white family. But, he says, he regarded his Mingo parents as his true family, and loved them as would have loved his own mother and father. He chose to stay.
I thanked them both very kindly for the liberty they granted me, but told them I had no desire to leave them; that I preferred to stay with them as long as they lived if I should outlive them; that they had been very kind and good to me and that I would feel an obligation to them as long as I lived. “My white mother I have almost forgotten and, of course, I shall never see again,” I told them. “I accept you as my parents. I acknowledge myself to be your son by adoption and am under all obligations to you as such.” My mother came up to me and held out her hands. She was so overcome that she did not speak, but I saw that her eyes were full. My father came forward and shook hands with me without saying anything more.2
Only much later, when both his Mingo parents had died, did Alder return to white society. Even then, he retained fond memories of his life among the Native Americans for the remainder of his days.
Others did the same. William Wells was captured at the age of eighteen by the Miami people, another tribe based in modern Ohio, and settled with them for a number of years. Adopted into the tribe, he married Wanagapeth, daughter of a chief named Michikinikwa, or Little Turtle. He became an intermediary between the Miami and the American settlers, and even though he served as a captain in the US Army, he never forgot his bonds with the Miami. Unfortunately, this incurred the distrust of both sides; the Miami came to believe that he was selling them out to the Americans, while the Americans considered him to be a Miami spy.
Life for many returnees was not easy. Simon Girty, captured by the Lenape, or Delaware people as a boy before being set free some years later, encountered many of the same prejudices as Wells. His obvious sympathy for the Native Americans incurred the anger of the American colonists (especially those who had lost family in Native American raids). Girty was branded a traitor to his people, and became an infamous hate figure on the American frontier.
Women captives often married into their adopted tribes, and ‘white’ genes were present in many Native American nations. There is a persistent rumour, unproven, that the legendary Shawnee chief Tecumseh was the son of a Shawnee father and an American mother. More prosaically, Mary Jemison grew up as the adopted child of a Lenape family and later married twice, a Lenape man named Sheninjee and, after his death, a Seneca man named Hiakatoo. She had children from both marriages. Offered her freedom and the chance to return to her own people, Mary refused. She remained with the Seneca all her life, becoming an elder of the people and assisting negotiations between the Seneca leaders and the American authorities.
Of course, the British and American authorities made efforts to recover captives, and often made the release of captives a condition of any peace settlement. But not every captive wanted to go. Of the sixty white captives handed over to the Americans near Fort Pitt (modern Pittsburgh) in 1864, at least half resisted their rescuers, and many tried to escape back to their adoptive tribes. Mary Campbell, a girl of eighteen who had been with the Lenape people for six years, was among those who preferred life with her captors.
Was this simply Stockholm syndrome? Perhaps, but it should be remembered that the white settlers in Pennsylvania and New York lived very hard lives indeed, making a meagre living from agriculture and the surrounding forests. The Native Americans had been making their lives from the land for thousands of years, and their living conditions were not so very different from those of their white captives. And some young people, at least, found more freedom and tolerance among the tribes than they did in their own society.
This is not to gloss over the harsh realities. There were cruelties and there were killings, as the accounts of Massy Harbison and Mary Jemison remind us. But, as Mary Jemison’s account in particular makes clear, there was much more than violence to life among the Indians. She talks of the kindness of her adoptive sisters in helping her to forget her sorrows and sufferings, and then, gently but movingly, tells us why she chose to stay with the Seneca people:
No people can live more happy than the Indians did in times of peace… Their lives were a continual round of pleasures. Their wants were few, and easily satisfied, and their cares were only for to-day – the bounds of their calculation for future comfort not extending to the incalculable uncertainties of to-morrow. If peace ever dwelt with men, it was in former times, in the recess from war, among what are now termed barbarians. The moral character of the Indians was (if I may be allowed the expression) uncontaminated. Their fidelity was perfect, and became proverbial. They were strictly honest; they despised deception and falsehood; and chastity was held in high veneration, and a violation of it was considered sacrilege. They were temperate in their desires, moderate in their passions, and candid and honorable in the expression of their sentiments, on every subject of importance.3